Math and Building Blocks

Everyday math and building blocks for preschool children – the easiest teaching tool?

All of my kids enjoy playing with building blocks. Why wouldn’t they? Blocks are easy to maneuver and building possibilities are endless. Blocks are colorful, with a variety of shapes and textures.


Building with them requires a slight plan once kids move past the stage of stacking. Baby C.J. does that now. She stacks and knocks them down. We are starting to mention colors and shapes with her. It’s fun to watch her explore and handle the blocks (chewing), part of the mathematical-logical intelligence.

Math and building blocks are a natural connection for preschool students though. Just working with my kids, we use blocks…

1. To count. We decide the building/barn/house will be, and count out a number for the foundation. We normally use the color that has the most blocks.

2. To organize and pattern. We sort out all the colors or all the sizes. We then make a pattern or layer the colors.


Ty with his blocks layered by colors.

3. To follow directions. Some blocks (normally for older children) have intense and specific directions. I think that there is validity to the argument that this takes away from creativity. I provide my children with about 90% of free time  with building blocks, but we do complete the direction sets together.

These directions are a different form of reading, but an important form! For this 10% of our time that we focus on math and building blocks, we must complete the directions in order and organize our pieces. The process can be long, but we finish it together and have a finished project.

The directions are not always simple, and completing these buildings can be frustrating. That is the hardest part for me – modeling proper behavior during a confusing time. I know that kids imitate, and I try to tell mine that I am need a break or that I need to reread the directions.

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Za’s building from following directions.

This is what I love about preschool math and building blocks. A million lessons from a simple and pretty inexpensive toy.

These are the activities that I’ve thought of, and I would love new ideas in the comments. How do you use math and building blocks together?

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4 Responses to Math and Building Blocks

  1. You are so right – building blocks are wonderful both for spatial exploration and for following directions. Thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

  2. Julie says:

    Building blocks are a great manipulative for math with pre-schoolers. When the kids get a little older they can be used to explain area, perimeter and volume.

  3. My daughter is still mostly at the stack-‘em-up and knock-‘em-down stage, but I love that you allow for mostly free play but also some more structured play you do with them. I would have so much trouble not jumping in and finishing it for them when it got tough though!

  4. It is tough for me too, but I just tell myself, she’ll figure it out. (over and over) I think blocks are so simple which is what makes them so easy to overlook, but they can be used for tons of projects.

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